Hello all. I hope you're having a peaceful and joyous holiday season.
Today's post is about book signings and Book Festivals. You know . . . those places where you get to sit around feeling nervous about engaging customers and wondering why you came? If such is your experience with these events, you need to loosen up and enjoy the buyer contact. Some ideas on that in a moment.
But first, if you haven't read my post on the Twin Cities Book Festival in October, you might want to take a look at that.
Then, let's divide these two similar, yet not identical, in-person book selling events into separate categories for consideration.
Book signings are usually "author meets buyer" events where a single author, or a small group of authors, participate. There is typically pre-event publicity such as publication of press releases, distribution of flyers, placing of posters in store windows, or other creative advertising. The signing may focus on a single new release; or it may encompass all of the author's books. If you can coordinate a press release or book review in a local newspaper with your signing, that's great!
Often bookstores will host book signings in the hopes of boosting their own sales of books by that author. When a bookstore hosts your event, all books are normally purchased through the bookstore's till, and the store takes its usual percentage as commission. This is true whether the books sold come off the store's shelves or out of boxes in your car trunk.
The store will assign you a location to sit and display your wares. It is a good idea to ask ahead of time what sort of seating, table or other space will be allocated to your signing. In some cases you may wish to have a bit larger table than the store has offered, and you may inquire if you can bring this along with you.
In my experience, the accommodations for book-signings have been fairly spare and quite cramped. Be prepared for these eventualities. Have book stands (buy some wire ones if you don't have any -- they're cheap) along with you, so your books can serve as their own display if space is tight. I also like to bring a relatively large, formal linen cloth to cover the table. This touch classes up your presentation and makes both you and your books look more professional -- not t0 mention giving you a spot to hide your book inventory. My cloth is cream-colored, satin brocade. It goes with pretty much anything.
At a Book Festival
Unlike a book signing, where you are the star of the show, a Book Festival or Book Fair will usually feature many authors. Author "tables" are often only part of a table. And the authors are arranged in a central area, around a perimeter or both.
With all these authors around, you want your presence to stand out -- but in a good way. A table cloth is also a good idea for these events. (See above.) You may want a paper or tag-board sign to hang in front of your table. (Most of the time you will not be allowed to have banners or displays that block the buyers' view of other authors.)
Be ready for cramped seating arrangements. (See my Minneapolis Book Festival Post if you didn't look last time I mentioned it.) Bring a water bottle. You may get thirsty. Make friends with the authors near you so you can watch their tables when they need a break, and vice versa.
Unlike a "signing," you will probably be responsible for ringing up your own sales. This means you need to bring plenty of cash to make change. If you are savvy enough to own THE SQUARE, you should have a conspicuous sign boldly stating: CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED. This sign will make your table stand out even if nothing else does.
Also, since at a Festival or Fair you are not usually paying a retailer, you may want to consider a discount off the List Prices of your books, and mark the discount clearly so buyers know they are getting a DEAL. You don't need to discount your prices. But I recommend it. It's one more reason to buy NOW.
Useful Information for Both Signings and Festivals
Whether your at a signing or a Festival/Fair, unless your a NY Times Best Seller, you won't make many sales without some sales effort on your part. (I read somewhere that AVERAGE book sales at a signing is FOUR books. You want to sell more than that. And you can. I always do!)
If you stay comfortably seated with a table segregating you from your customers, it's going to be tough to get their attention. If possible, stand and say "Hello," "Good Morning," "Hi. These are my books." "Can I interest you in a good ________mystery/memoir/children's book, etc?"
If it's crowded, search for faces that turn your way, or glances that catch your eye. Those folks just might want to know more about your books, but are too uncomfortable to ask. If buyers studiously avoid looking at you, they probably want to be left alone. Look for someone else.
Have your "elevator pitch" ready. And have it geared to your audience. (If you're a local author, maybe emphasize that. If not, maybe focus on the plot, or other similar authors. "If you like _____, you'll enjoy my books.")
In case you're not sure what an elevator pitch is, I offer the foregoing link. In the case of authors, an elevator pitch describes in just a sentence or two what aspects of your book you think will capture the potential buyer's interest. Be quick. This is your chance to entice the buyer to learning more. And you don't want to bore them to death.
If you decide that you are just too shy to be the first person to speak at a signing or Festival, don't expect to sell many (or any) books. It is very rare for the buyer to initiate the discussion.
Crawl outside your comfort zone and connect with your audience in a new way. Try different approaches. Ask a question. Comment on the weather. Mention the "big game." DO WHAT IT TAKES TO CONNECT.
Well . . . as usual, I've rambled on. Still, if you know the information contained in this post you will be far ahead of where I was at my first signing and my first Festival. So try to take something useful away today and make it yours!
That's it for now.
All the best!